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UN Calls On Global Media To Fight Aids

Global Media Leaders Urged To Expand Their Response To UN's Call To Fight Aids

Top international media executives participating in a meeting organized by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today were urged to explore fresh, innovative ways to harness their industry to advance the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

In his remarks to the second meeting of the Global Media AIDS Initiative (GMAI), held this year in Cannes, France, Mr. Annan told the executives, "You have the chance to do something few of us can – you can save lives by attacking ignorance in every corner of the planet."

He said it was encouraging to see so many of them gathered to "use the power of the media in the fight against [HIV/AIDS.]"

The first GMAI meeting was held in January 2004, and was conceived and organized by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Today's meeting, held at MIPTV, a marketplace for television programming, was chaired by Shashi Tharoor, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.

The discussion highlighted the next stage of GMAI's development, with increased membership, new industry leadership and plans to broaden the scope of its activities significantly, chiefly in regions with high infection rates such as Asia and Africa.

Mr. Annan also appointed MTV Networks' Bill Roedy to Chair the GMAI Leadership Committee, comprised of media executives representing each of the world's regions to be named in the coming weeks. The group will collaborate on the overall vision and priorities of the Initiative, while regional and local media leaders will continue to drive their own projects. In 18 months, Mr. Roedy will report to the Secretary-General on the results achieved by the GMAI.

Former United States President Bill Clinton, who spoke to the group by satellite from UN Headquarters in New York, said AIDS "is totally preventable" yet 40 million people are infected and millions die. "We know what to do," President Clinton continued, urging the media leaders to make a difference by doing more to remove the stigma of AIDS as well as on education, prevention and generating support in donor countries to make resources available.

UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot urged the media leaders to give audiences new, challenging messages, particularly in light of nearly five million new infections last year. "Increasingly it is women and young people who are affected. We need to put them at the heart of the AIDS response if we are to stop the epidemic," he said.

Drew E. Altman, President and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said, "One of our main goals has been to build wider recognition of the importance of media in the fight against HIV/AIDS, which the GMAI has helped to accomplish. The challenge now is to sustain progress towards mobilizing media on a global scale.

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